It was nearly ten years ago when Valve stumbled upon a bit of a success. Yep, way back in 2007, when Valve decided it would be cool to release a three pack of games under The Orange Box title, who would have known that the least anticipated of the three would spawn a whole new world of puzzle platformers.
But with Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 taking the hype, it was the little known Portal which burst into our lives and delivered a puzzler like no other. It was clever, it was funny, and it was testing enough to keep puzzle fans going back time and time again.
Now though there’s a new puzzle kid on the block, and this one is threatening to take the crown off of Portal’s head, paint it purple and then run away until it is safe to come out again. The game in question? ChromaGun by Pixel Maniacs.
Comparisons between Portal and ChromaGun are bound to arise. After all, the latter follows the former very closely indeed. It’s a puzzler. It’s got a cool looking gun. It’s got humour. It’s got a crazy ending. But most of all it’s got the character required to be a bit of a hit.
And if I’m being honest, whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the trend setter from all those years ago, it’s most definitely in and amongst the best of the rest.
ChromaGun places you in ChromaTec’s test lab as the newest, rawest recruit to go hands-on with the patent pending ChromaGun. It is up to you to utilise this ‘weapon’ in order to solve ever increasing, ever meticulously designed puzzles in order to escape. Or at least find the access to the exit door before moving on to the next.
But gone are the portals that have previously been made famous and instead you are left to shoot, splat and merge primary colours on walls – and robots – in order to trip switches and get those god damn doors open. The joy in ChromaGun is in its simplicity, and as long as you can remember back to when you learnt your colours at school, you should be fine. Red, Blue and Yellow can all be used to colorize your surroundings, and painting a Worker-droid the same hue will see it attracted magically towards anything of that colour. Pulling the droids around by shooting specific colours at certain areas of the room you are in is as simple as it sounds, and it won’t take you long before you become a dab hand with a ChromaGun.
The mechanics are drip-fed slowly your way and each room you come across provides you with new ideas, new techniques and new gameplay options at a decent rate. There is never a point where you’ll be left high and dry by a ramp up in difficulty, with Pixel Maniacs lovingly walking you through things at a perfect pace.
But that said, it doesn’t take long for things to get more complicated. The introduction of colour mixing brings Orange, Purple and Green into the equation, whilst force shields, electrified panels of death and evil droids which are ready to hunt you down should you not work quick enough, will all provide a bit of a test.
It is when you find yourself in a room with every idea under the sun thrust your way that you will wonder how on earth you are meant to solve the puzzles in front of you. But sitting back, taking a minute or two to track door unlock lines and trying to figure things out methodically is a must. Because without doing it you’ll find yourself restarting levels over and over again.
Yes, there will be occasions when you’ll need to call for help – whether that be from a family member, a friend or one of those walkthrough genius’ found on Youtube – but on the whole, most of the puzzles can be figured out easily enough with just a whirl of the old grey matter.
Helping push the ‘story’, if you can call it that, along is a humorous narrator who is more than at ease with making a joke of things when need be. From the very first moment, right up to the last, you’ll find yourself subjected to wisecracks, innuendos and sheer moments of joy. If not because of what is being said, then because of the excitement that comes along when you finally crack a room.
As a whole, ChromaGun is a great little playthrough, but there are a couple of things which hold it back from being great. Firstly, there are numerous occasions when one slip of a colour choice is fatal, seeing your progress in a puzzle stop dead with no option other than to restart the room again. With many of the later levels requiring quick reflexes as well as quick thought routines, this is rather annoying and it would be nice to have had the option to be able to cycle through and ‘repaint’ certain scenarios. Instead, make a mistake and you’ll more often than not find yourself left with a black tarred canvas that is good for nothing.
There is also the odd bit of lag and screen judder on certain levels. Although admittedly these are rare occurrences and don’t really impact too much on the game as a whole, it would be nice to see a smoother experience – especially when you take into account that the visuals are nothing stunning. They do the job intended of them, yes, but a slightly crisper and neater set of rooms wouldn’t go amiss.
But these are fairly picky negatives to be bringing up and ChromaGun is a funny, clever and taxing enough game to keep even the most hardened puzzle fanatic busy for a number of hours. If you fancy something a little different, want to grab a shed load of Gamerscore and find yourself constantly harking back to the days of Portal, then this is the one for you.